Environment minister Jairam Ramesh gave conditional approval to 400 MW Maheshwar dam in Madhya Pradesh, 14 months after he got the work stopped for poor relief and rehabilitation work.
Ramesh, while allowing last five spill gates, necessary to make the dam functional, said the gates should not be lowered until satisfactory completion of relief and rehabilitation (R&R) work. Twenty two gates have already been constructed of the project which got environment clearance in 1994.
“The filling up of the reservoir up to 154 meters will be considered after the R&R work has been completed,” the minister said in order lifting the moratorium on the project imposed in February 2010.
Only one of the nine villages that will get submerged once the reservoir is filled has been relocated. On April 16 Ramesh told Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan that as only one village has been relocated the stop work order will continue.
On May 6, he cited five reasons for lifting revoking the stop work order. It included various meetings convened by the Prime Minister's Office, conversation with Singh on April 16, with Union power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and reports of Central Water Commission and Central Electricity Authority. The PMO had held a meeting in 2010, in which officials from MP participated, and assured of getting it cleared.
Ramesh’s order also mentioned that Chauhan had told him on April 16 that people in the project affected areas have begun to think that the dam will not be completed because of the ministry's rigid stance and were, therefore, objecting to rehabilitation.
The minister also said that when the project promoter's (S Kumar) met him in May 2010 they had accused local activists for poor R&R progress.
His order also rubbished the claim of Madhya Pradesh government that the ministry had no power to review the RR saying that one of the conditions of the environment clearance clearly was R&R proceeding pari passu (simultaneously) with dam construction.
The Maheshwar Dam is part of the Narmada Valley Development Project that entails the construction of 30 large and 135 medium-sized dams in the Narmada Valley.